Broken Trust?

“It’s shattered,” came the response from the orthopedic surgeon  as he looked at my 21 year old son’s  x-rays.  “Impressive,” he continued  with a grin.  “How did you do this?”

“I’m a competitive cheerleader,” came my college senior’s response.  “I ran across the gym floor and planted my foot for a front flip combo.  As I was upside down in mid-air I heard five separate pops.  Instinctively I landed on my butt to avoid further injury.  I knew whatever had happened was bad.”

“Those five pops were the five bones in your foot.  From what I can tell your bones just couldn’t handle the weight of those muscles in your feet.  I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.”

With the appointment completed we were sent home for a week to wait for the swelling to go down before surgery.

It took two surgeons, three pins, and two screws to repair the damage.   Ice, immobility, and time were the prescription for successful healing.

Shattered foot.

Shattered dreams of his last cheer season.

Shattered dreams of graduation with his friends.

TRUST is like that.  In the blink of an eye (or the plant of a foot), one small lie can break or shatter trust that has taken a long time to build.  Unfortunately, we’ve all done it.  None of us is perfect.

So what do we do when broken trust leaves us hurt and angry?  Maybe we’re confused or fearful of what the future holds for our relationship–especially when trust is broken by one of our kids.  How do we teach our kids how important trust is and how long it takes to “heal” the scars that are a result of not being truthful?

Take inventory:

  1. Do you walk the talk?   Trust goes both ways.  Are you truthful to your kids?  Do you apologize when you blow it?  If not, start.
  2. Are you safe enough for your kids to tell the truth?  Do you yell at them when they lie?  Take away their privileges?  Call them liars?  If you do, stop.  Parents should be a safe place to admit our mistakes.
  3. Do you set them up to lie?  If Alexa hasn’t emptied the dishwasher yet, and you know it, don’t ask “Did you finish emptying the dishwasher?” instead ask “What is your plan for emptying the dishwasher tonight?”  This keeps Alexa focused on the task rather than potentially lying or thinking up an excuse.
  4. What do you do when you know they’ve lied?  Give time for your emotion to subside before your engage. Let your teen know how the lie hurt you and your concern of being able to trust them in the future.  Ask why they felt the need to lie–what made them afraid to tell the truth?  Role play how they could have handled the situation better.  Encourage them to tell the truth next time.
  5. Talk through how to rectify the situation when they’ve lied.  What actions can they take?  (Apologize, do extra chores, show acts of kindness?)  What is it you need from them in the future to rebuild trust?  Let them know it takes T-I-M-E.
  6. Encourage!  When they do tell the truth, especially when it is difficult, celebrate that together.  If you are unsure that you can trust them in a particular situation, tell them why and let them know you need more time.

When I saw the poster of broken glass with the words “trust is like a mirror, once it is broken it is never the same”, I instinctively knew that is not always the case.

Just like Matt’s foot, trust can be re-built.

With time, patience, painful surgery (of the heart), nurturing, and re-rehabilitation I’ve seen:

  • marriages restored from shattered trust
  • friendships blossom and rebuilt based on truth
  • parent/child relationships become better than before because of restoration

Forgiveness can heal a multitude of sins.

Matthew 6:14

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

And for those who are interested in the rest of the story.

Matt’s foot healed completely.

He traded his passion for cheerleading for a time of coaching softball.

He went back to college finishing up the next year.

Because of a shattered foot — Matt met the girl of his dreams on the softball team all because he had to return to school the following year.

Isn’t it awesome how God can take something that is broken or shattered and turn it into blessing!  

Dare you to start the healing process on trust issues that surround your family.

“Let go…and let God”,

2 replies
  1. Nisha Worsham
    Nisha Worsham says:

    I am in agreement with most everything you say here. My question is this: are you advocating no punishment for lying such as loss of priviledges?

    • Debbie
      Debbie says:

      Nisha, that is a really good question. Disciplining our children through the loss of privileges is definitely a good way to get their attention. It helps them make the correlation between “I do something wrong” and “then I will need to pay retribution” to own my sin. The thing that is important with lying is that it is a breach of trust that goes deeper. Lying has to do with their character. Depending on the age of the child, as parents, it is important that the child knows that the offense has negative impact on the relationship. When taking away privileges they need to be similar to the offense. For example, not going to a friend’s house because you can no longer trust them to make good choices when they are not around, could be tied to the lying. If it is over a phone issue, then taking away the phone for a period of time would be a good option.

      The thing we need to remember is that with “lying” the child needs to see us as “safe”. What I mean by that is they need to understand that we won’t over-react to whatever they share with us that they’ve done. Any consequence or discipline needs to be handled in a manner that says, “you made a mistake and need to pay retribution in some manner’ but I still love you.

      We encourage parents to set up consequences with their teens ahead of time so that the teen understands what the consequence will be for a particular situation. That way there is no question what the consequence will be by the teen.

      Encouraging our children when they work hard to be truthful (even when it is difficult) is also a way to help them understand the importance of owning up to our mistakes.

      Thanks for helping me clarify that and thank you too for being on the journey.


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